House prepares to pass a bill to prevent impending rail strike

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers are poised to pass legislation Wednesday to prevent a catastrophic rail strike that President Joe Biden warned just weeks before Christmas could threaten the U.S. economy.

After meeting with D-Calif., Biden and other senior congressional leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said she was confident there would be enough votes to pass the resolution in the House. Later, both Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would go to the Senate, where R-Ky.’s lawmakers said they should intervene this week.

“Leader McConnell and I want to get through this as soon as possible,” Schumer told reporters at the Capitol. “We understand the time deadlines and will work together and find the best way to get this done quickly.”

But senators have only days to act – railroad workers are promising to strike by December 9 if no new agreement can be reached – and some lawmakers are threatening to erect barricades that could slow the process. Labor ally I-Vt. Senator Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday that the bill did not go far enough and would suspend the amendment until the Senate votes to allow workers to take paid sick leave.

“In a time of record profits in the rail industry, it is unacceptable for rail workers to have ZERO paid sick leave,” Sanders said. tweeted. “It is my intention to hinder consideration of railroad legislation until a roll call is made that guarantees railroad workers in America 7 paid sick days.”

Other progressives will not commit to support the railroad proposal either. Senator Elizabeth Warren of D-Mass also said she wants paid sick leave to be included in the final bill: “These rail companies have plenty of money to provide a few sick days to people who actually do the job.”

And while touting Biden as “the most pro-union president of our lives”, D-Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown said he has yet to decide how to vote.

Democratic Party leaders came up with a creative solution to address the concerns of progressives at party meetings. Pelosi said Tuesday night that the House will vote on railroad legislation that would pass an interim agreement negotiated by the White House in September between railroad companies and labor leaders.

However, the House will separately vote on a bill that would add seven days of paid sick leave to the deal. Both bills are expected to be sent to the Senate, which will decide how to proceed.

Liberals aren’t the only ones criticizing the legislative fix. Conservative Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he wanted Congress to get out of the way and get workers and operators back to the negotiating table.

“Just because Congress has the power to impose a drastic solution doesn’t mean we should too. It is wrong for the Biden Administration, failing to fight for the workers, to ask Congress to impose an imposition,” Rubio said in a statement. an agreement that the workers themselves rejected.”

Rubio said he would not vote for “any agreement that does not have the support of railroad workers”.

Another conservative, Senator Josh Hawley of R-Mo, also suggested he would vote no, citing union opposition. The workers “said no, and then Congress is going to choke it on their throat at the behest of this administration?” He asked.

Four of the 12 rail unions rejected the White House-brokered deal this year, and Biden on Monday urged Congress to step in after talks between workers and their employers seemed to stall. With more than a week until the 9th December deadline, railroads must notify shipping companies a week in advance, by next Friday, if a strike is planned.

The economic consequences of a strike can be severe. Biden said as many as 765,000 people “could be unemployed” in the first two weeks.

Congress has the power to prevent strikes and impose an employment contract on workers under the Railroad Labor Act, a 1926 law designed to prevent disruption to interstate commerce in labor disputes.

“Biden is confident we won’t do a rail attack. He’s confident we’ll come to a resolution on this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.

Shannon Junk Piece, Frank Thorp V., Haley Talbot and Kate Santaliz contributed.

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